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Canadian dockworkers accuse employers of ‘false claims’

Photo: Prince Rupert Port Authority fairview-container-terminal.jpeg
Canada’s West Coast dockers union has accused the BC Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) of alarmist tactics in an effort to discredit the union in what is an increasingly acrimonious dispute.

Frank Morena, President of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) 514, which represents over 700 ship and dock foremen, said yesterday he would not comment on the negotiations, has been forced to refute claims made by the BCMEA which negotiates contracts on behalf of employers.

"Let's be clear - it was the BCMEA that broke off talks, not ILWU Local 514; it was the BCMEA that filed a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board over bargaining, not ILWU Local 514 and it is the BCMEA that is trying to negotiate in the media instead of at the bargaining table. not ILWU Local 514," said Morena, indicating that BCMEA’s protestations in the press had forced the union to respond.

In its defence the union has said it has delayed serving a strike notice on the employer, in this case DP World Canada at its Centerm terminal in order to take part in federal mediation negotiations, and said it absolutely refutes BCMEA’s “false claims” regarding the standoff in negotiations.

The Union has said it would prefer to bargain directly with its employer, DP World Canada, “but the company is refusing to bargain and attempting to have the BCMEA do its bargaining instead, leading to an impasse.”

Morena added: “Our Union members want to negotiate a fair contract with our employer - DP World Canada and continue our important work in the port but the BCMEA has been an obstacle to reaching a new collective agreement."

It is the union’s legal right to negotiate directly with its employer, DP World Canada, and that has been confirmed by arbitration.

“Our members certified at DP World Canada have taken a legal strike vote over issues directly related to their work - the involvement of BCMEA is not only unhelpful - it is provocative when we need productive bargaining," claimed Morena, who also warned that union members had voted unanimously to take necessary industrial action.

Clarifying the three key issues over which the union and employers have yet to reach agreement on Morena said these were the use of semi-automation at its container terminal without negotiating on how these technological changes would be implemented; centralised dispatching despite losing an arbitration over the issue; and its use of management dispatchers instead of union members at its Nanaimo terminal, again after arbitration ruling against the employer.

According to the ILWU Local 514 its last contract expired on 31 March last year and discussions over the new contract “failed last year and again in January 2024”.

DP World is a Dubai headquartered global terminal operator. Government intervention settled a bitter dispute in Australia in February this year after Australia’s Fair Work Commission ruled in favour of the Maritime Union of Australia.

DP World has been contacted for comment.